While I was away on Sabbatical, I also finished the work for my religious educators credentialing, and after the final interview was awarded the status of Credentialed Religious Educator, Masters Level. This has been a continuing education project that I have worked on for the last three + years, working with a mentor that I spoke with on the phone once a month during that time. Because of my previous Masters in Teaching, I had a bit of a head start and was able to apply some of that work toward the credential. For this credential I took two graduate level courses (UU History and Polity as an online course through Phillips Theological Seminary and Liberal Theology as a winter intensive through Meadville-Lombard Theological School) and attended five 15 + hour long professional trainings. I read 71 books, and wrote up a professional portfolio that was 153 pages long and demonstrated my mastery of 16 areas of professional competency. Finally, I wrote essays explaining my personal theology, pedagogy, and understanding of the meaning of faith as well as a self-assessment and plan for ongoing professional development after credentialing. This was capped by the personal interview in Boston with the credentialing panel. And I am now a credentialed religious educator!
This work has been of amazing value to me already, as I felt the depth of my knowledge, confidence, and abilities expand throughout my studies. Yes, I would have matured as a religious educator over the last three years anyway, but the credentialing program gave me four things that helped me really grow:
1. A Road Map. Just having the list of what competencies to study, the rubric of what competency would look like, and the resource list to study is a priceless gift in itself. Any religious educator who is just starting out could just take that reading list and start going with it, and they would benefit immensely.
2. A Mentor. The mentor relationship meant I wasn’t doing this all alone, but had the accountability of needing to tell someone else each month what I had accomplished, the comfort of having someone else to ask for advice when I felt lost or overwhelmed, the cheerleader encouraging me to keep going when I felt discouraged, and the much-needed outside eye when I started just spinning my own wheels and going around in a circle.
3. A Deadline. It is a fact of human life that most of us find it far too easy to put off any and all tasks that don’t have a deadline associated with them.
4. And finally, it gave me a Project to Talk About. This meant I could present what I was doing to the congregation and place the time and the money that I spent on continuing education in a context for them. The credentialing program lifts up the fact that what we do as religious educators is a profession, and that we do need to continue to grow as professionals and expand our skills and knowledge in addition to the day-to-day and week-to-week tasks of our jobs.
I am so glad that I pursued credentialing, and would encourage all who are engaged in this work to give it a real look.